Well, Visitors, I’ve got a stumper for you. I’ve been informed by a long-term reader of mine that my attempts at camouflage are really pretty lame. I’ve been investigating this whole PTSD phenomenon for a while, and how the general population deals with mental differences. I’ve related to you some stories about how various people in my circles deal with someone like me who’s been traumatized, and what it’s like to live, grow, and even thrive with this particular kind of baggage. I’ve told you very personal stories of betrayal, and some of them have been at the hands of the same people.
Here’s a summary for you, in case you’re new around here and don’t feel like reading my morose “Why a Blog” page. (Spoiler alert, Run away quickly if you are dealing with metastatic colon cancer. I’m not going to pull any punches with this one. Everyone is different, and you or your loved one might very well live. My husband did not, and it was ugly. )
July 18, 2010, my 46 year old husband Chris passed away from colon cancer. It was just about every nightmare you can imagine. If metastatic colon cancer were a form of legal punishment, it would be outlawed as ‘cruel and unusual’.
I just read on the Colon Cancer Alliance page (http://www.ccalliance.org/) that the statistics for stage 4 colon cancer five year survival rates are up to a grand 12%. When Chris was diagnosed, the number was about 8%. Good luck with that.
At any rate, it’s easy to romanticize a lost battle to the death. I don’t feel like doing that anymore. Chris’s fight was ferocious, desperate, painful, grasping, and very, very deliberate. If there was one thing that kept him going, it was the fact that he simply couldn’t stand the idea of his children’s stories having “I lost my dad as a teenager” as a tagline. So he fought it off as long as he could.
Metastatic colon cancer is a wasting disease. He had no symptoms until it had invaded his liver. Fairly quickly, he went from a robust, six foot, 185 pound barrel chested man with incredibly sexy arms, to a withered 128 lb shell of himself.
His last week at home is something I’m still recovering from. Intimate proximity to horrifying, traumatic death is a very good working definition of PTSD. A musical friend of mine once said “Victoria, that stuff is enough to mess with anyone’s mind.” Right on, Kate.
So, it’s part of my story. It’s a lot more peaceful now, actually. The first year or two, mental pictures of those last days would invade my dreams, even the wakeful ones. I’ve since learned that to try and banish that sort of thing is fairly pointless. What’s the first thing you think of when I say “Don’t think about elephants?” Big, grey, floppy trunks and ears, of course. So, “Don’t think about it?” How stupid is that?
Much better to talk myself down. Remind myself that it isn’t happening now. He’s not bleeding out now. He’s not hallucinating now. I’m not calling emergency vehicles now. Friends aren’t descending now. The kids aren’t freaking out now. Yep, it happened, yep, it was hell, but it isn’t happening now. It’s surprising, how settling that can be.
I’ve discovered though, in many circles, that kind of self-talk makes me a fruitcake. To get back to my opening line, some of you have been able to tell that some of the stories I’ve related here have the same cast of characters.
Actually, probably most of you. I guess I’m pretty guilty of thinking too highly of my writing abilities. But what of it? The fact that anyone, a Jeff, Terrence, Chandler, whoever, would go around still using words like ‘crazy’, is kind of startling. Do we say “retarded?”, “faggot?”, “Butch Queen?”, “kike” or “towel-head?” anymore? Of course not.
So why is “Crazy” the last bastion of comparative gossip?
My daughter Faith just cracks me up. She’s got the self-righteous, laser-focus hypocrisy meter cranked up on high. She also struggles like hell excelling at a pre-med course of study, community volunteerism, and intense grief about Dad that ratchets up with every accomplishment.
“Mom, my lab partner listens when I talk about how sad I am that Dad isn’t here to see I’ve tested out of two years of Spanish. Then she goes and tells her friends how glad she is her life isn’t crazy like mine! “
Yep, comparative gossip.
When did it become OK to say,or even think, “Well, my life sucks, but at least it isn’t as bad as THEIRS.”
I had an interesting discussion with a member of my church the other day. This woman was a medical doctor, a “Christian”, and good friends with one of the characters I’ve previously introduced you to. Apparently, these two harpys feasted on the idea that, well, while THEIR lives might be hard, at least they aren’t CRAZY like me. For heaven’s sake.
As most of you know, and my counselor reminds me constantly, I have an overdeveloped sense of justice. I simply can’t stand to see the powerless taken advantage of. That’s why I’ve spent the past several decades working with children, and find it so satisfying.
But when grown, educated, rational adults go off like this, I can barely see straight. Just who do you think you are, making such insane judgements? This is nothing but a play for power, and a pathetic one at that.
As you can probably anticipate, I had to call the doctor out on it. Matthew 18:15-16 is clear.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
So I did this. One of the few people in my life I listen to, a spiritual director of sorts, mediated the discussion.
I asked the doctor point blank of she had done these things. First, she went off on a long-winded riff about how she had never, ever, not one single time, even heard my name, couldn’t dial me up, had no idea who I was, until she received the mediating phone call.
So, I asked her point blank, “So you never, ever, not one single time, had a discussion with the other party that involved any identifying characteristics of me, my name, my age, the fact that I stutter, my relationship status, my cancer story, my mental state,nothing?”
Silence on the other end. Then, more of the ‘Superior Than Thou’ riff”
“Well, I’m a doctor. ” (So? That and three dollars will get you coffee at Starbucks) “People ask me medical questions all the time.” (Really? And you discuss them in a personal manner? All the time?)
“She may have talked to me a couple of times, but it barely stuck.”
Really? Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either you “Never, Ever, Not Even Once” heard or spoke of me, or you did.
The long and short of the conversation was that the doctor was understandably embarrassed about being called out, and hung up on me angrily. Huh. Guess Victoria failed on the Romans 12:18, “In as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” department.
So Miss Victoria is stumped. I honestly don’t have it out for the doctor. I’ve grown up in the medical community, and misbehaving doctors are a very sore spot with me. Especially one that makes a claim to the promises of Christ. So what to do ? I am beginning to thing, nothing. Jesus already promised that God the Father will protect the widow and the orphan.
It’s time to put this to bed. July 18 will mark three years that Chris has been gone.
Ephesians, Proverbs, Timothy, all of these remarkable books in the Bible talk about how ‘gossip separates intimate friends’, ‘stirs up anger’ , is frightfully judgemental and is something only ‘busybodies’ do.
Even being the butt of this nonsense, I’m actually OK. How about that? Two years ago I never would have been able to say that, much less share that with you, gentle Visitors.
My kids and I go along, and it’s OK. In fact, I can actually say that one blessing I’ve gotten out of this is an acute appreciation for the undeniable fact that all of us, every single one, has baggage to carry.
Every single one of us deserves to have their baggage handled with gentleness, privacy and care. That some of us, like this doctor, don’t do that? Well, I guess they’ll always be there. Like my mom once said-
“Vickey, sometimes the only thing in me that loves people like that is Jesus.”
Well said, Ma.
Much love to you all,
Chris and I had a simply terrific pastor for pre-marital counseling. His name was Mark Brattrud, and he pastored a little Full Gospel church that met in a Howard Johnson’s in Albany. Mark was perhaps thirty at the time, married for a few years with a couple of small kids. The church grew like wildfire. Made up mainly of college kids and young marrieds, we got the job done.
We sent out missionaries, sent up Sunday school programs for little ones, and had all kinds of positive things going in the community. I’m convinced that one of the reasons this happened was because Mark took what the Bible had to say about money very seriously.
At the time, a man named Larry Burkett had started a ministry called Christian Financial Concepts out of Georgia. Larry merged his ministry with another one, and it’s now called Crown Financial Ministries. Larry passed away after that from cancer, but Crown continues to thrive.
Mark got all of the “managing your money God’s way” materials and made Chris and I study them together as part of our counseling. We learned all kinds of things like this:
*Jesus talks more about money than any other topic except salvation and love. “Did you know that?
“The Bible has a lot to say about finances and belongings. I have researched God’s Word and found more passages about money and possessions than about heaven, hell or the Second Coming. The Bible offers more than 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 on faith — but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions! There is no doubt that the church should have something to say about financial matters in the church as well as in the secular world.” (www.crown.org)
*”Thou Shalt Not Go Into Debt” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It does, however, admonish us with all kinds of scary images about debt. Ps. 37:21 calles us “wicked” if we borrow and do not repay. Proverbs 22:7 says the “borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Yikes!
* Money is intimately connected to your heart.
Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So, Pastor Mark wanted Chris and I to “hide these things in our heart” from the very beginning of our relationship. Considering that nearly 80% of all divorces cite “Money” as one of the top 3 reasons for splitting up, this was a very wise idea.
Anyone who’s been married for a while knows that reasons for arguing with your spouse abound. It’s nice to knock “Money” off the list from the beginning. I can sit here and tell you with clear eyed truthfulness, Chris and I never argued about money, because of this early training.
So, now that he’s gone, what to do? In the previous post, I related to you a gritty situation I found myself in regarding money.
The megachurches I have been involved in over the past years, sadly, don’t seem to handle their money well. Before Chris was diagnosed, we attended a church up here that has since shut down. Money was a constant issue. The church was affluent and well attended. It was estimated that the average annual income of the attendees there amounted to about 70 million dollars a year. (Average household income in the area about 70,000$ a year, times about a thousand regular givers.)
Out of the seven years we went to that church, it stretched to meet a two million dollar budget. Jesus asks us simply to tithe. Just tithe, or give ten percent of our income. Jewish folks actually were encouraged to make all kinds of other offerings, the ten percent was a minimum.
Had my old church simply been obedient and tithed, our annual budget would have tripled. Think of it. Seven million dollars. We could have started a free medical clinic, immunized poor kids, supported food pantries, had every single ministry in the family of God provided for abundantly, very likely with some left over.
This is, sadly, the modus operandi of most American megachurches. Honestly, it’s so irritating I could spit. My kids and I talk about this type of thing all the time, and fortunately, so far, their training in generosity seems to have ‘stuck’.
Ten percent isn’t that much. If we can’t get along with 90 percent of what most Christians make, we seriously need to reevaluate.
Did you ever notice, too, that Christians can’t seem to talk about this type of thing without raising up a whole crop of squirrely attitudes?
I got blasted the other day by a regular reader about the previous post. David is a doll, and one of my most valued friends. Still, he’s a redheaded Irishman, and trusts me enough to let loose now and again.
“Victoria! You should take that post down! You can’t assume about people’s financial situations! And besides, you’re making yourself out to be this loaded chick with more money than God! You are sounding very manipulative!”
Hmm. I thought about it. Really, I did. David is one of about 5 people that I actually listen to when they criticize me.
I realized that David was right about some things. Since Chris and I used God’s principles of handling money from our marital infancy, we’ve always had a surplus. The point of that surplus, after the needs of the family are met, is to give it away. Really, it’s not brain surgery, a minimum of study will reveal that God owns it all anyway, so we may as well be obedient.
Very, very few Christians are obedient in this way. Thus, people like me come across as indiscreet. How unfortunate. How much better for ALL of us to be obedient, and maybe even get together and TALK about the good we could be doing with a surplus!
When Chris and I were young, we had the joy of discovering that even a well placed 50$ could make a world of difference to someone. As we went along, we learned about how wise Christians provide even for their children’s children (Proverbs 13:22) and how we need to know where our money goes and have a plan for it (Proverbs 27:23) .
The blessings of this sort of concrete planning are really pretty cool. I think the best part of this type of thing is the joy that comes with contentment. Chris and I were not millionaires, and with four children to educate, I’m not going to be that, probably ever. But we knew the faces of our flock, AND knew the faces that came with sharing with those of us who don’t have a surplus, and could use some of ours.
So, my friends, lay off the judgements, if you please. I talk about giving because it’s what Jesus asks us to do, not because I’m made of money. Also because I think it’s pretty darn fun.
Much love to you all,
Last week was an interesting one for me in the annals of human behavior. A friend of mine started a program at my church. I wanted to help and provide some financial support. It was turned down by the board of elders, all of whom are white, wealthy men.
Now, before I lose you, understand that I’ve devoted a large part of my teaching career to carrying out what Martin Luther King really meant when he said that he wished his children would be judged not by the ‘color of their skin, but the content of their character.’ If he were alive today, I would venture to say that gender blindness would also be a desired outcome.
I also like men. I have nothing against a white, wealthy man being in charge, as long as he shows some common sense and Christlike character. Still, sometimes things just set my teeth on edge.
My friend has devoted the past two decades of her life to meeting the needs of older singles like me. (Funny, I don’t really see myself as ‘older’ at 48, but it is different, and a lot more fun than in my twenties. ) She started a group whose goal was to provide an environment where singles could meet and mingle that was not a bar, or some other obnoxious meeting venue where chemicals and poor behavior are to be expected.
With a few exceptions, Christian values are upheld, and the group seems to be meeting a need in the greater Denver area.
Here’s the delicate part. Jesus is pretty clear that when Christians get involved in charitable giving, one hand isn’t supposed to know what the other is doing. In other words, if you blow your horn, that’s all the recognition you’re going to get. So give, give generously, but shut up about it.
It came to my attention that the group could benefit from some transitional funding, as the church is quite large, and has a budget cycle that should be respected. The fiscal year for this church begins in January.
I offered to provide the funding, not to the church, but directly to the (currently unpaid) leadership.
(Charitable giving used to be a source of great joy for Chris, my late husband, and me. We did our homework, looked at budgets and business structures, administrative costs, and gave where it would do the most good. I miss that intensely.)
The approving elders set a meeting for last January. Then February. Then March. Last week, they finally had a meeting to decide whether or not to fund the position, which, by the way, was largely with my money.
The conclusion? Outside funds cannot be used to fund church programs, and my friend could wait until the next budget cycle to get a real decision. Thanks but no thanks, Victoria, you can keep your money.
Well, that’s mighty white of you, sirs. I venture to say, that if my friend were a man, and I hard- charging male CEO, the outcome would have been different.
Let me pause before I grind my teeth into a powder. Older singles are very much “The least of these” in the eyes of the church. You can really tell a lot about the character of a person, and a church, by how dismissive they can be to the powerless and poor.
Next, stand up if any of you had child development in college. Did you ever study feral children?
I had a phone call today from a client that I think may have been thrust into raising genuinely feral children.
Wikipedia has a pretty good functional definition of a feral children:
A feral child (also, colloquially, wild child) is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and, crucially, of human language. Some feral children have been confined by people (usually their own parents); …. Feral children may have experienced severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. Feral children are sometimes the subjects of folklore and legends.
What do you think of when you imagine a feral child? Most of you probably dial up a Disney-esque Mowgli, a child abandoned by circumstance and left to be raised by animals.
Few of us imagine a child isolated as a toddler, given food laced with sedatives and having very little contact with the outside world. “Mitchell”, we’ll call him, was contacted by the authorities when they discovered his biological triplet sons had been isolated in a room with very little outside contact from the ages of about one to about three.
Mitch’s boys’ mother had multiple psychiatric disorders, and why she had any sort of custody of these kids is a mystery to me. The boys’ physical growth had been stunted and their linguistic development almost nil.
That is to say, their conventional linguistic development. Most of us with healthy parent-child relationships see our children ride a magnificent wave of language acquisition during these crucial years. When the boys were discovered to be living in these horrendous conditions, they had developed a language of their own. They are the size of a typical one year old, and chatter away with each other, clearly understanding what the other has to say.
They bring each other things, have conversations, and play side by side. The problem is, no one else in the world has a clue what they are saying.
Mitch desperately wanted custody of his boys. He received it, but in order to keep it, he has to keep up with an onerous schedule of various therapies all at his expense. Mitch is a blue collar worker, and is pedaling as fast as he can to make sure his boys get to all of their appointments.
So he lands on EA’s doorstep.
“Please. Victoria. No one else has space for all of them. I can’t break them up, and it would kill me to be running to three different facilities. Can you help?”
Can I help.
Three profoundly abused, seriously disabled little boys, and a dad who’s doing everything in his power to keep them at home.
On the one hand, this is the most depressing part of my job. Lock three little children in a room for over a year? The diaper rash alone must have left permanent scars. What kind of person uses their power for such a profoundly negative thing?
A sick one.
On the other hand, what an opportunity for good. Perhaps three isn’t too late. Noam Chomsky postulated on the “Language Acquisition Device” that all children have, and theorized that all children can learn language until about twelve.
Other theorists speculate that the cutoff is closer to six. Much past that, and the hope of being a native language speaker diminishes rapidly.
Still, there might be a chance. So what do I do? Our country is headed for disaster in terms of early childhood education. If President Obama has his way, our country will soon not have a K-12 school system, but a PS-16 state funded system. The reasons to be apprehensive about this are legion.
Back to Mitch. The state has stated to Mitch that if he does not provide an appropriate educational environment for these boys, at his expense, the boys will land in foster care and the state will find preschool placement for them.
This is insane.
Mitch wants his boys. Because the dad assumes responsibility of these profoundly damaged kids, he must pay an enormous fee for them to come to my school, or the state will take them and tax dollars will not only pay their preschool fees, but their foster care and upkeep as well.
This makes no sense.
Why not halve the cost, have the state pay a discounted rate to EA, and Mitch pay to raise his sons, as it should be?
So, I turn this over in my mind, and I bring it to you. Are any of you advocates for the disenfranchised? Advocates for the rights of fathers? Can any of you help me help Mitch?
If we can find the funding for all three of these kids, including the funding for a special aide just for the boys, we at EA could make a profound difference in the language development of these kids.
In the mean time, pray for Mitch. Pray for the feral kids who are isolated, but not discovered yet. Pray that there is still hope for us, as humans, to treat the least among us with some degree of dignity.
It’s what Jesus would have us do.
I was going to have a lovely night here at Barnes and Noble with Rachael putting together a picture book of our recent cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. It was terrific! I have some great pictures for you guys to see of the magnificent boat and some wonderful, different places on the planet. Some of the simplest ones are the best. For example, ever notice how scary it is too look over the pier anywhere on Manhattan Island? Someone once told me you were only safe if you got a hepatitis shot before swimming! Contrast that to this:
Ah! Go swim anywhere! From a pirate ship in Saint Thomas.
But that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow.
Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’m contemplating going back to school for a doctorate. Abnormal neuroscience has held a fascination for me for years. I’ve been steeped in the ‘normal’ (Ha!) for decades. Now, I want to see if I can make a contribution toward catching the likes of Dylan Klebold or Adam Lanza.
I also like the fact that we are all pretty much in the same boat, as far as the hard cards we get dealt in life. Sure, I’ve had an unusually bad run, but if something traumatizing hasn’t happened to you, just wait a bit. Someone is going to abuse you, one of your addictions will get the better of you, or someone will die.
Here’s the good news, it’s doable.
Several columns ago I wrote about PTSD and an experience that I had that was essentially ‘retraumatizing.’ (“Jeff Mackleby…”) In a fascinating study of the etiology of PTSD stressors Julian D. Ford describes education, reading ability, and a belief in ‘self-efficacy’ to have a tremendous impact on the lowering of ‘retraumatization’ among PTSD survivors.
I think that’s pretty damn cool.
In essence, if you read well, like school, and believe that you can help yourself and others, you can make a difference the the lives of others. I come out pretty strong in all those areas.
So here we go.
Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin are simply terrific. They’re two of my favorite actresses, so I thought it would be a fun way to spend an evening with Rachael, followed by a trip to Barnes and Noble.
(SPOILER ALERT!) “The Call” is a story about how a 911 police officer responds to a lethal call. Berry plays the police officer in the 911 call center (The “Hive”) who receives the call of a teenager who is trying to avoid the hands of a home invader.
She doesn’t. She’s murdered in her little-girl bedroom, and the invader goes on about his business. Berry’s character hears everything, and is brutalized. (Some of you are getting a gut reaction right now. Good for you.)
Halle’s character is a decent human being, so is realistically depicted as being traumatized by this event.
Six months later, the assassin strikes again, and Berry’s protege takes the call. Berry is now a trainer, and her newbie replacement can’t figure out what to do when Breslin’s character is abducted from a mall.
What follows is a tense cat and mouse game between the killer of the previous call, Berry and Breslin’s teenage character. Berry is exceptional and Breslin is really coming into her own.
It’s a tightly woven, edge of your seat tale, and very, very realistic. Breslin very nearly loses her life, as does Berry. I had my eyes glued to the screen, and at one point found tears running down my face. What the heck?
Well, duh. I have three teenage girls. This could be any one of them. Probably has been one of yours, my precious reading audience. Why look at a story that sets your thoughts in such a negative direction?
So if your loss still gets to you, if you still feel the pinch of pain in your gut when you hear accounts of other people’s trauma, don’t go see “The Call.”
All the best, my forward looking friends.
The first time I ever took a cruise, and I believe the total now is up to three, I noticed there was a definite pecking order according to skin tone.
Seriously, the darker the employee, the farther down on the ‘great job’ ladder they would fall. Nigerians and Jamaicans were room stewards, hall sweepers, Norwegians and Finns crewed the the boat.
On the Allure, though, I noticed this got a little scrambled. For example, there’s a perky species of human known as the ‘cruise director’. Ours was a balding, energetic multi-talented dude of about forty. Stocky and oozing charm, he’d extol everything from salsa dance lessons to jewelry classes. Then, he’s get on stage to warm up the crowd before shows, and give a good rendition on a guitar of some lame eighties song in a dorky getup, eliciting some pretty good laughs.
Last night I sat with Christopher in the last (clean) comedy show of the night, and the cruise director bounced on to the stage and started with his intro. Maybe because I was worn out, but it took me a beat to realize he was as black as the Caribbean night.
“Huh?” I turned to my son. “Did he change nationalities?” This guy was a doppleganger for the white dude, with some serious sun exposure!
As the kids (#portableparty) and would gad about these various excursions and places, I got to tell them stories about things their father and I would do, and the very cool people we would meet.
See, when Chris and I first started teaching, it was English to Speakers of Other Languages. (ESL) What a great job. We are lucky to live in the most adventurous country in the world, and people still clamor to get here.
English is still the ticket to movin’ on up, it seems.
Now, our adventures are bulkier, costlier, and much, much more satisfying. See, to me, a sabbatical or a break is not so much about relaxing as it is about difference. Differences in relationships is especially fascinating to me.
In Saint Maarten, for example, it was a riot to educate these kids about advertising. When I advertise any of my business, I do all the usual stuff. Print, paper, realtors, all kinds of things. In Saint Maarten, if someone wants to braid your hair, sell you a t shirt or a beach umbrella, they plant themselves firmly in your path, intrude in your personal American space bubble, and ask. I find that hilarious. But it’s effective! You want a T shirt, Selene has three for ten bucks. Beach Umbrella? Verizon has nothing on the local network of ebony folk signaling each other a block away.
The beaches of Saint Maarten are unmatched. White powdery sand and the distinctive Caribbean blue, it’s what they have to sell. Who can blame them for getting in your face to make a living?
So I rent their boat and tip them to take me to a cool snorkeling spot. I pay for Christopher to discover how wild it is to hover next to a barracuda. I chat up the lovely French diver and her boyfriend, and discover that there actually is a niggling, sneaking appeal to chucking it all and living in the islands. Maybe for a little while.
Dialects and code switching are especially great to watch.
See, the white folks who chuck it all and come down here to live rarely get the island patois.
But to listed to one black-as-night islander talk to another is just like music. I can make out a few words, but mainly, get carried away on the tones and the flow of the sound.
I mean, for all I know, they could be saying “Let’s take the white lady for all we can, and laugh about it when the giant boats leave. “
Ha! But I don’t think so. The islanders on Saint Maartan strike me as pretty universal. Ordinary folk with families and lives, doing the best they can with the tools they’ve got.
Great day in Saint Maarten.
“Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.”
This famous phrase is attributed to the first century Roman poet Juvenal. In context, Juvenal is displaying his contempt for the slide of contemporary Romans into a culture of decadence, rather than historical political involvement. This could be interpreted as ‘the richer and more distracted the citizens feel, the less trouble they’ll cause.’
This is utterly fascinating to me, as a single parent trying to guide these four kids into responsible adulthood.
Gaze upon this mountainous thing with me, for a moment-
The craft next to it is a cruise ship from the “Princess” line, and we are docked side by side at Saint Thomas, USVI.
Really, it’s just sort of staggering, don’t you think?I find myself whistling “Down in the Valley” when I walk between ships when they are docked. I mean, I can barely see the sky.
This thing is so gigantic I’m mindful of things like BASE jumps and rappelling down mountainsides when I walk beside it.
So, a bit of history. When Chris and I started our parenting journey, we decided that we didn’t want our children to be happy, we wanted them to be good. Really “Happy” is such an first world notion. I don’t give a plugged nickel if my children are ‘happy’. Just the word is insipid and annoys me. Any parent with more than two brain cells to rub together can get that ‘happy’ is fleeting, and ‘good’ is forever. Why? “Happy” can change if I trip over a shoelace and break my wrist. (True story)
But “Good” lasts. “Good” takes risks. “Good” says to the hurting woman at the well, ‘Yes, you can have any extra that I don’t need. My children are fed and clothed, I have a surplus, it’s yours.’
“Good” looks at the destitute cancer victim and says “Of course, you can stay with me. Yes, you may use my things, and get whatever measure of peace you can find to rebuild some strength for this battle you are waging.”
“Good” says to the college student “Think! You have a magnificent brain! Weigh what your professors tell you, form your OWN thoughts and convictions, develop your OWN identity! You can do this. “
“Good” looks at it’s children and says “Cause trouble. Don’t be distracted by bread and circuses. Stick up for the rights of those who have less power than you. Question your peers, don’t go with the affluent flow.”
So, what are we doing here? Really, it’s kind of hilarious. Here’s one reason: “Traveling Feet”
We took a day trip in Nassau to snorkel a spot called “Rainbow Reef.” There’s wild country under the surface of the waves, and these mountain children rarely see it.
Here’s another reason. You folks remember my brother selling his manuscript “The Old Man and the Harley ” to Thomas Nelson a couple of years back? (Go to Amazon and get it, it’s great. )
Tradition and identity. Riding Harleys is a wonderful part of John and Dad’s history. How cool to honor that like this?
So here we are on this towering shrine to excess. The Allure is a techological marvel, It holds several thousand passengers, and over two thousand service personnel.
It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. The service is impeccable, the food superb, the shows of the highest quality, and the staff seems to be either authentically friendly or extremely well trained.
Our first day was in Nassau, Bahamas. We chose to spend it largely on another boat, speeding out to a good local dive spot.
All of my kids are experienced divers, and have been snorkeling since about age 5, so this was nothing new. It’s funny, I could see them chomping to be let loose to explore the boundary waters, but they could see that would likely tick off the people who’s responsibility it was to keep them safe.
“Safe” is as much of an irritant to my kids as it is to me. I think it was Lucy who once asked Mr. Beaver if Aslan the Lion was ‘safe’ (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis) “Of course not. ” replied Mr. Beaver. “But Aslan is good.”
Exactly. If I can teach my kids, in the middle of all this opulence, that ‘safe’ is not the equivalent of ‘good’, I will have continued to succeed in my parenting.
On this trip so far, I continue to have undistracted talks with the self-directed young adults these kids are becoming. It’s a beautiful thing.
I think the best reason to be here has to do with identity formation. Now is a critical time for all these kids to figure out who they are. The death of Chris was a terrible blow to this process, and it’s a very real lack.
So I cast around mainly for time. When I am at home, the demands on my time are pretty big. My job, my sick dad, and Rachael being at home are my main time expenditures, and it’s OK. But, with four kids, it’s pretty much an odds game that someone is going to need some parental input, right this instant.
Running a family is definitely a two person job.
But it is what it is, and I run around finding as much undistracted time to pour into these kids as I can. It helps.
Here are some of the knotty problems to untangle:
Faith is a junior this quarter. Yes, she just graduated last May, but DU finally processed all her honors, AP and additional collegiate coursework. She also obtained a research fellowship with a doctoral student. Med school is screaming down the tracks.
Christopher is really into his construction management studies. Many of the major companies offer internships around the country. Take one in some other part of the US, or part of the globe, for six months or so?
Abi might transfer to Savannah or Manhattan next year. This kid is remarkable, but that’s a big step, and she’s nervous about being away from everything she knows.
Rachael is just taking these first steps, and is dealing with a culture at EHS that frowns upon accomplishment. How to help her without transmitting my own cynicism toward American public school?
If you’re a person of faith, pray for me. This is a ton of work. If you’re my friend, buy me a Starbucks.
If you’re a single parent, shoot me back some advice, as soon as you can. I could use it!
Saint Maarten tomorrow!
I lifted that line directly from a Bird Martin essay at everyonehasastory.me. Go check it out, Bird is awesome.
So, I try really hard not to burden you people with angst-ridden, obsessive stories that cloud my judgement from time to time. But here it is , midnight on the day before I am to board a beautiful cruise boat with my four adorable, hilarious kids, and I am stewing over a petty rejection.
I have things to do, like printing out cruise boarding documents, and fleshing out a series of really cool essays I’d like to bring to you folks as we go along this trip.
I guess I would call this a “Piano Man” moment, you know the song where Billy Joel goes on about how stuck he is in a bar, where people put bread in his jar, and say “Man, what are you doing here?” This is utterly ridiculous, so here goes.
You folks know that I am still going to this older singles group at Mission Hills Church in Denver. I very nearly blew it off, as some of the relationships there were simply disguised napalm. But the silver lining was that I learned, as a single woman, how to handle destructive people in my life, and I did it without that benefit of a spouse. When I look back on it, that’s actually pretty cool. Mel Curtis, esteemed life coach, reminds me of how far I’ve come in my judgement since then. Josh, the pastor at the church, reminds me not to lie to myself. Here’s the lie “My judgement about new friends is simply terrible, I will never be able to make new friends as a single woman.”
Here’s the truth “I made mistakes in judgement. I have the Spirit of God to help me make better choices next time.” And then to write down the number of times since I’ve come to Mission Hills that my judgement has been pretty good, and I’ve made some pretty heartfelt friends.
Even then, that’s not entirely spot on. Another silver lining there is that I have learned that people who are older singles are generally that way for a reason. We have a hell of a lot of baggage to deal with. Every single one of us. The two mistakes I made were with people who were really, really good actors, and who denied any sort of baggage at all. MONSTER red flag for next time, and actually, when framed like that, I’m authentically grateful for the experience.
As I continue making new friends, I can look more clearly at their behavior, and ask myself “Are they acting like they have the world by the tail? Everything is fabulous? Think twice, Victoria. If that’s the case, why are they estranged from their parents? Why do they have no contact with their kids? Why do they have rocky relationships with other people? Hmmm…..”
Chris and I used to talk this stuff over into the wee hours of the night, and I can hardly tell you how much I miss that. He was a very relational person, and figuring out relationships with him was like breathing.
So anyway, back to the Meetup. I post a very friendly, generic greeting to a woman that I noticed had an interest in long-distance bike riding. I make a comment about her posted training schedule for a local ride and inquire if I might join the group.
(We made our first epic ride during the Newkirk Circle of Eights. Thirteen years ago we did Ride the Rockies, a remarkable seven day trek held annually over the wild territory of Colorado. My brother John was 38, my dad had turned 80, and Christopher had turned 8. I was thirty four,so no biggie there. It remains an awesome piece of family riding lore)
So, this woman, we’ll call Peg, took down the post, removed my comment, and didn’t care to reply. I discover, of course, that she’s friends with my mistakes at the meetup. Naturally.
AND what’s worse, that I give the situation any of my attention at all. Enough.
So, with that said, I’d like to tell all of you how much I prize your friendship. This teeny weeny little blog has blossomed into something really cool over the past year or so.
I would like to think that when we visit, I’m chatting with an audience of widows, widowers, people in the middle of loss, or simply isolated folks who wonder where the light is at the end of the tunnel.
I know that bunches of you are simply decent people. People who wonder what it’s like to walk in the other gal’s moccasins, and who stop by here to see what an accomplished, lonely, blessed, bereft, joyful widow looks like.
It’s a privilege to me to share with you the truths I stumble over. Things like there actually is a God who loves us and knows us pretty darn well. Truths that it’s pretty rough out there. Truths that even in the rough spots, life can be pretty damn good.
That said, join me tomorrow as my kids and I board Royal Caribbean’s “Allure”, the biggest cruise ship on the planet.
American excess always holds a great deal of humor for me, some light, and some dark. The “Allure” is a first world joke, from my point of view. It’s size is only exceeded by one single oil tanker, and an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific.
Manufactured adventure like this is generally not my first choice. Brainless twit that I am, when my three college kids trained the “Mommy Guilt Rays” on me, I’m embarrassed to say I caved.
“Mom! We all have the same Spring Break! How often is that going to happen! We should do something really fun, like a cruise!”
Sigh, the little stinkers. So yes, I caved, and off we go the islands.
I love you all, and appreciate you listening. Cruise documents are almost done, dreamland, here I come.
Sleep well, friends.
DSM-IV Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present:
(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
So, when I first heard of PTSD, I think I was about twenty. I was in college, learning for the first time about things that could throw our psyches into an state of disarray. I didn’t quite buy the diagnosis, it seemed too convenient an excuse for soldiers to come back to our country as slackers. (No rotten tomatoes yet, please)
Then, Chris got sick. Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’ve written about this topic quite a bit, you can look in the category list for various essays on that topic. Frankly, I’m a little tired of the whole ‘cancer journey’ and I’m sure Chris is too. He’s not sick anymore, after all. Then Emily Berkeley fell from the sky and died, Tom Seedroff lost his cancer battle, Micky Krupa’s bone cancer ate him alive, and seventeen year old Spencer’s raging lung tumors suffocated him to death. Finally, my own dear mother blew an artery in her brain and leapt into the arms of Jesus in less than ten minutes. Pretty rugged year and a half.
So, PTSD came and lived in the spare bedrooms of the Lierheimer house for quite a while. This unwelcome guest would invade my children’s dreams, interfere with my concentration, and rob me of sleep for months. It would walk with me into movies, frightening me at unexpected times with loud noises and strange people. It dangled this unexplained feeling of doom in front of me at all hours, assuring me that something else awful was sure to happen soon. What was next? Something was sure to come. Perhaps I was going to lose a child, and as Dickens would say “You’d have to ship me off to Bedlam.”
For quite some time, I was quite certain I was coming unglued.
Jeff Mackleby entered my life the month after Mom passed.
Mack was an understanding sort. He was a teacher nearby, and like most of my friends, is musical. We met through a church event, and I was drawn to Mack over time. He was sharp and stimulating, with an advanced degree in comparative theology. We had wonderful talks over chamomile tea, and soon were seeing each other regularly.
As the months went on, Mack and I got to know each other better. He confided in me some of his own considerable internal struggles, including times where he seriously considered ending it all. Depression, a search for significance, a stalled job, all of these things where serious detriments to Mack’s mental health. I wrote Mack often. Writing, as those of you who have been with me for a while, brings a lot of clarity and peace to me. I wrote pages and pages, detailing the horrifying helplessness that would wash over me often as time went by. Mack was a saint to put up with all the words, and he would often reciprocate over coffee, a concert, or dinner. We would often go into great detail, me more so. The great linguist Debra Tannen observed the women simply have a greater ‘word bank’ after all.
As I grew to trust Mack, I revealed more of my own internal struggles related to the PTSD associated with such a depressing cluster of loss. Mack was the first person who treated me like a normal human, who didn’t gasp with simulated despair or mouth the platitudes that Christians often articulate.
God was good to me, I thought, providing me with a friend that was a respite, a soothing break. I honored Mack with the same. Never would I speak about Mack’s thoughts of suicide, never would I speak of his issues with his troubled life, I would hold those as close to my heart as he held my troubles. Mack was safe with me.
As the months went by, Mack and I grew apart. Nothing too dramatic, ‘dating’ in middle age is often ridiculous territory to negotiate. Mack went his way, I went mine. I missed our talks, but was sure that Mack would remember them with as much fondness as I did.
Mack and I still travelled in the same circles, and it came to my attention that he had started dating a woman named Christina Cruz.
There was no love lost between Christina and I. It’s a funny thing, people. I learned a long time ago that ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ does not mean “Be Best Buddies with Everyone You Come Across.” It just doesn’t work that way. There will always be rough edges, always people that you just don’t click with. Christina was like that for me. I had reason not to trust her, and simply stayed out of her way as much as possible. Conflict in the Body of Christ is an ugly thing, anyway, and best avoided if possible.
When Christina found out that Mack and I had been seeing each other, a giant target appeared on my back. A ghastly dynamic began to unfurl in all places, the church. About a month ago, one of the church members actually came up to me and said “I don’t know what Christina’s problem is with you, you don’t seem crazy to me.”
Another church member: “I don’t know why Christina keeps talking about you. It seems like other people’s personal information should stay personal.”
A third, previously unknown church member: “I’m so sorry for all the loss you’ve endured. Christina has taken me into her confidence, and I’d like to pray for a healing over you.”
What in the name of all that’s holy is going on here? I would never have shared such personal information with Christina. She’s just not trustworthy.
How did she know about my PTSD related issues? I could count on one hand the number of people I trusted with these things. Medical people, mostly. Gifted folks who sit around all day trying to figure out how to help traumatized people like me and my kids.
Mack. Jeff Mackleby. It had to be. Everyone else, except my family, was bound by professional confidentiality.
“Withering” isn’t strong enough. “Humiliating” is better. Mack had utterly violated me by making those issues available for public consumption. My kids, too.
Christina was a vicious gossip, and Mack had handed her enough ammunition for a lifetime. How severely I had misjudged him. Why on earth, why would one human being would violate another like that is completely mystifying to me.
I spoke with the pastor about it, and we were both stumped. Gossip is such an evil, Jesus, and Jesus’ half brother James warn against it continually.
One of the well meaning friends in the church informed me that Mack had allowed Christina to read everything I had ever written to him. (Really, even then it would be so much better if people would just keep their mouths shut. I appreciate that people were just trying to be kind, but I didn’t need to know the depth of Mack’s betrayal.)
How pointless to know that Mack had bared my soul without my permission. Besides, was I really that interesting? I think not. What would the point be?
At any rate, the situation is a stumper. Christina is right, I was crazy. So were my children. Trauma dreams are enough to mess with anyone’s head. But who’s business is it? I’m not sure how anyone could get more intimate, barging into my family dynamics like that. Especially since the story is lopsided, and the redemptive side of it, the side where the Lierheimers actually heal, is completely left out.
How about a testimony? How about the completed story, where God reaches down into the mire and uses these horrible experiences to bless other people going through the same ordeal? How about incredibly uplifting stories like my kids walking beside other young adults experiencing similar loss?
And what to do about Mack and Christina. Jesus asks us to forgive ‘seventy times seven’ which a lot of people interprete as ‘eternally.’ He forgave us, after all.
Nothing I do will stop Christina or Mack. The only strength I’ll have is to keep healing, keep relying on the the God of my fathers to continue to provide me with the friends, love and strength to be the best Victoria I can be.
Fortunately, our God is constant.
Thank God for that.
Much love, Victoria
Addendum to “Mackleby” Which Victoria Never Does
Fellow Visitors, I edited “Mackleby” several times before I sent it out. Even after this went live, something about it niggled at me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So, I called my good friend and fellow blogger Bird at everyonehasastory.me for advice. Bird is delightful, and one of the most honest, blunt people I know.
“Victoria, this sounds like a pity-party. Are you still hurt by this?” I thought about it, and the honest answer is no. In fact, the most honest answer is “HELL, no, I am not still hurt by this.”
When I found out what Mack had done, I lost about a day over it, mainly because I thought Mack had more respect for me than that. To tell someone else’s deepest, darkest secrets without their permission is a wretched, sick person thing to do.
My story is mine. My children’s stories are theirs. I wrote “Mackleby” because too many people of faith go around sharing other people’s stories, concluding with “We should pray for them” as disguise. I am convinced that even people of no faith persuasion realize this for what it is, shameful gossip, and there is no excuse.
I work as hard as I can not to gossip, and often fail. I hold up Mack and Christina as counter examples. Do you find yourself doing this? Then stop. Now. Today.
By the way, both Mack and Christina are composites. This story is true, but names and characteristics are completely unrelated to who the characters actually are. In fact, in the spirit of a little fun, I’d challenge anyone except those of you in my inner circle to write me privately and actually name Mack and Christina, and I’ll take the essay down immediately. Don’t want to gossip, after all.
Ever notice how surprising it can be when people DON’T cut and run during conflict and drama? Those of you have been with me for a while know that the past couple of years have been pretty drama filled.
The past several months, Thank God, have been smooth sailing. Even this Valentines’ day was pretty nice. I was as sick as a dog, stricken with a vile case of the ‘flu that’s been rampaging across the nation. I got to take the day off (I have the best staff in the world) and sit at home and buy e-cards worth a cup of coffee at Starbucks and send them to my Valentines.
We have finally finished untangling Ma’s estate this February, for real this time, and it is a beautiful thing.
About a month ago, my sister, the best one in the world, and my brother, a truly standup guy, and I, spent the day in the estate attorney’s office. Mom was affluent, and things are complicated. My sister, who is awesome, and I were niggling about some things, and John was going through some documents.
Really, this is about the part in the story where I can tell I start to lose you. Estate battles among heirs are legion, but Chrissy, John and I have had each other’s back for years. Sure, we drive each other nuts sometimes, but I can count on them for my best interest, and vice versa. Nevertheless, sometimes knots have to be untangled, and that can get tense. We had been working hard for about a couple of hours, when my little sister suddenly burst into tears.
“Chrissy! What’s wrong?” (We were talking about office buildings.)
“Mom had so much fun building these things, and now she’s gone, and never coming back.” (Grieving people have penchant for the obvious.)
Brother John just looked at her. Then, with tears welling up in his eyes, he pulled out a little white bank envelope. You know the kind? The sort that you can get your cash in when you leave the teller, so no one snatches your money out of your hand when you walk to your car?
“I keep this with me, Chrissy. Look at what it says. ” Mom had written a note on the back of it.
“Take this and use it to take Melissa and the girls out to a nice dinner. I love you. Mom.” John was openly sobbing now.
By this time all of use were streaming with tears. The estate attorney, a rock star who teaches at the Sturm college of law at DU, asked us if we needed a minute, and should he step out. (At four hundred dollars an hour.)
“Yea, probably,” we chorused. So next, I pulled out Mom’s Costco card. In retrospect, that’s pretty goofy. In fact, it makes me smile to write about it. Mom loved to go to Costco, and it was one of the last things we did together.
She sat in one of those funny little carts with the flag sticking up, and I walked behind her.
“Vickey! Vickey!”She’d fuss. “Get that ten pound double pack of Skippy! Peanut butter never goes bad! You always need peanut butter!” I shook my head, chuckled and grabbed it. She’d have to live to be a hundred and seven to eat all that, and she died six months later.
So I carry Mom’s Costco card. I look at it now and again, the dorky picture on the back makes me smile.
When we were done exchanging stories, Keith, the attorney tentatively stepped back in. I think he was surprised not to see bloodshed.
“Did we make some progress here?” We laughed through our tears and got back to work. It was emotional and exhausting.
That night, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the Meetup at Mission Hills. It’s been getting better, I’ve made new friends who aren’t so toxic, and are more of a like mind.
I sat in the front, and as we sang, the lights grew belligerent. The sound started to blare, and jagged daggers shot through my head. Soon, it felt like it was going to explode.
I carefully stood up, carefully walked to the back of the room, and carefully pressed my head against the cool of the back door glass. What the hell was I thinking. That was one of the most stressful afternoons of my life, and I’m at a fluffy social event? Tears started to stream down my face as the pain ratcheted up, blurring my vision. I sunk to the floor, out of sight.
“Victoria. Victoria! Are you all right?” A big hand descended on my shoulder. Wyatt, a large, redheaded man stood over me. Wyatt and I had become friends a few meetings ago.
“Pain. Wyatt. Migraine. Terrible.” Each whispered word was like a knife through my temple.
“You’re having a migraine?” (Yep, either that or a stroke, and then things would get really interesting.)
“OK, got it. What can I get you?”
“Aspirin. Caffeine. Soon. “
“Got it, Aspirin and Caffeine. Let’s get Maverick to run to the store.” Maverick was another friend. Quite the ladies man, but at the heart of it, Maverick had a heart of gold, and would do whatever he could to relieve someone else’s suffering.
Wyatt led me to a dark room, and helped me stretch out. He got four aspirin that I swallowed dry. I thought about banging my head against the floor, to give me something else to think about besides the A bomb going off in my head. Migraines can get strange that way.
A few minutes later Maverick galloped into the room with a barrel full of Coke. You know the kind? The “Big Trough? Gulp? Barrel full of sugar and caffeine?” I had never, ever bought one of those things, and I laughed spite of myself. I nearly fell out of the chair.
Wyatt chuckled. “Your truck big enough for that, Maverick?”
“Hey, the lady wants caffeine, the lady gets caffeine!” I started to sip. The boys stood over me, chatting aimlessly, and slowly, the pain ratcheted down to bearable levels. I got up and staggered, and each man grabbed an arm.
“Whoa! Sit down there young lady! (Ha!)” We’ll stay here as long as you need. ” Tears jumped into my eyes.
It’s a funny thing, the stuff you miss when you’re not a wife. See, I believe loving well is a learned skill, and actually is learned best during adversity. Chris and I had a hell of a lot of adversity during our years together, and we learned to be pretty good friends during most of it.
Wyatt and Maverick demonstrated the simple, protective love men can offer women. Or, women can offer men, come to think of it. A simple, friendly gesture, staying with someone while they are sick, meant the world to me. The pain slid down to mere firework levels, and I told the boys I thought I could make it home.
“No, no, no, I don’t think so.” Maverick can be very commanding. “You just sit here until you feel better. Wyatt and I can drive you home. ” I sat. Evergreen is to far to ask new friends to drive.
We chatted some more, and soon I really did feel steady on my feet. Wyatt walked me to my car, tucked me into it, and Maverick insisted I text him when I pulled in.
Wyatt and Maverick have since become some of my most heartfelt friends. I trust them with my safety, and they tell me their adventures, and friendships slowly inch along. It’s a treasure.
Socrates – “Be slow to fall into friendship, but when you are in, continue firm and constant.”
It’s a beautiful thing.
So, who knew I had a completely badass brother? In 2008, my brother, John J. Newkirk, published The Old Man and the Harley.
John’s a pretty bright guy. He’s also the best brother a gal could have. He’s a double EE from Renssalear Polytechnic Institute, Dad is also a graduate as well. Both with a powerful sense of family, history and citizenship.
In the summer of 1939, my dad, a young Jack Newkirk, set off on a rickety Harley to see both the New York and San Francisco World’s Fairs. He had no way of knowing it was to the the autumn of his youth, and that his entire generation would soon be thrust into the most devastating conflict in history, WWII.
Seven decades later, John retraced this epic ride with Dad, in a silent hope the old soldier will still be proud of the America he fought for. Each mile brought discovery as the author learns of his namesake, “Scarsdale Jack Newkirk” the heroic Squadron Leader of the legendar Flying Tigers, and of his father’s life on the road and in the jungles of the South Pacific during World War II.
The result is quintessential Americana, a sweeping portrait of the grit, guts, ingenuity, and sacrifice that defined a nation, and a timely lesson from the Greatest Generation on how we can overcome our most pressing challenges and reclaim the American Dream.
I’m proud of these two generations of men in my family. I’m the mother of a firstborn son, and thank God he had the first eighteen years of his life with a man who wasn’t afraid to be manly, like John and Dad.
Study this one with me for a minute.
So here’s part of the third generation now. Faith is wearing the Salutatorian banner, and Abi is a National Merit scholar. Dad’s goofy grin takes over the picture, he just couldn’t be prouder.
Since my girls lost their dad, I’ve been praying for ’manliness’ to surround them. Now, don’t laugh, I realize the words ‘masculinity’ and ‘manliness’ have become comic fodder these days.
But when dealing with families, completeness is such a luxury. Male influence is necessary for child development, I’m convinced of it.
Now, before I get deluged with all kinds of mail about how intolerant I am, let me remind you I’m a single mother. I am not on the prowl for a spouse because my kids need a dad. That’s ridiculous. Loss abounds. One of my favorite bloggers, Prego and the Loon, recounts the tale of her near escape from a dad who very nearly killed her and her child. Bird Martin, of Everyone Has a Story, has very wisely chosen to restrict access to the kids by her meth-addicted husband. Men make mistakes, and women often have to make hard choices. A dear friend also lost her husband to cancer, two weeks before she gave birth. It can be a lonely life.
But how about the normal, healthy masculine guys? The ones like Dad, who fought for this country, came home and slugged out a living for sixty years, took pride in his kids and their accomplishments, and thanked God for his opportunities.
Or John? Electrical engineers are a dime a dozen in this raggedy economy. John is getting older, his kind of jobs are getting fewer and father between. So he regroups and slaves away and produces this marvelous book.
Or my friend Jeff? Look at this picture for a moment. Jeff has endured his fair share of loss. Jeff is familiar with spousal betrayal, the loss of precious friendships, and the restrictions of his rights as a father.
But even in his fifties he slugs it out. Jeff has three kids, two still need to be provided for. He’s a soldier, a defender of our freedoms, and works two jobs to get it done.
Look closely at this one. Cradled in his big arms, his powerful, careworn hands gently handle the most fragile of our species. A prideful smile plays across his craggy face, and the power of masculine gentleness radiates from the shot
So what to do with all of this? For single people, I have found that Valentine’s day can be a little difficult. It’s a beautiful thing to reframe things sometimes. The love of a father, brother, the love of a child, all of these things truly are blessings from the Lord, and gifts to be treasured.
In fact, if I were a man, I might even give a hearty UH-RAH!